Shinji Mikami was born on August 11th, 1965. While he had a normal childhood, Mikami admitted of being afraid of his father who was a "violent person."
"I remember one night when I went to bed without doing my homework -- he kicked me out of bed in the middle of the night and told me to go outside. So I did, in my pajamas without any shoes on, and he told me to stand in front of the car. Then he started chasing me around in the car, and he wound up having me run about five or six kilometers, all the way to the seashore by our house. Once we hit the coast, he drove off without saying a word, so I had to walk home by myself in my pajamas. If you think about it, if the police had seen this barefoot boy in pajamas being chased by a guy in a car, they would've arrested him on the spot, wouldn't they?"
Despite having to survive that ordeal, Mikami have the utmost respect of his father for the sacrifices he had to undergo in order to support the family. After failing the college entrance exams two years straight, Mikami eventually made it into Doshisha University in Kyoto. It was not long after his graduation when Mikami, an avid gamer, discovered Capcom.
"I had played Ghosts 'n Goblins and 1942 and all that, but I wasn't familiar with the Capcom name at the time. A friend of mine had found a flyer advertising some kind of job fair-slash-buffet party Capcom was holding at the Hilton and he gave it to me because he knew I liked games. I went mainly because I wanted to eat at the Hilton for free, but once I started talking to Capcom people, really getting in depth about the work they do, I thought it sounded pretty neat. So I applied to both Capcom and Nintendo, and it turned out the second round of interviews for both companies were held on the same day, and I chose Capcom. It's likely for the better because I probably never had a chance with Nintendo -- it took a company like Capcom to pick me up."
He joined Capcom as a game planner is 1990. It was here at Capcom that Shinji Mikami would begin his illustrious career and become one of the most respected game makers in the business. He worked on various Disney games for the Super NES like Aladdin, Who Framed Roger Rabbit, and Goof Troop.
The Evil Resident
In January 1994, Mikami's boss at the time, Tokuro Fujiwara (Capcom's General Manager), told him to make a horror game using the system of Sweet Home, which was a Japanese horror game for the Famicom. He came up with several ideas for the untitled game and one of them was about ghosts and evil spirits.
"My first aim was to create something that could provide the scariness of an amusement park's Haunted House, at home. For me, the things I've always been scared of the most are ghosts, so I was considering producing a game full of evil spirits. Thinking about it, though, in the capacity of a game, there wouldn't be any real feeling of exhilaration if you were shooting at, or attacking, ghosts. When I realized that during the initial planning stages of development, I decided to scrap the ghost idea and find a different type of enemy threat."
With the Haunted House theme ditched, Mikami went back to the drawing board and sketched out another idea involving monsters.
"I ended up realizing that the game's enemies needed to be monsters of some description, as close as possible to humans in form, rather than spirits. Yes, I thought- zombies! At that time I recalled the film, Dawn of The Dead; I loved that film. It was unfortunate, as far as the audience was concerned, that they couldn't survive; but with a game, the players could use their own techniques and thinking in order to survive the experience. I thought that this difference between horror games and horror movies could be something wonderful. That was the moment when I conceived Biohazard."
A lot of people feel that Mikami is being egotistical in claiming that Biohazard was his alone, but it's entirely true. For the first six months of development, he worked on the game on his own without anyone's assistance. A planner initially joined him but after three months of working together, he left to do development work on another project. Nine months later, Mikami managed to increase the workforce by fifteen personnel and from that time on, the team gradually increased in number until, towards the end of development, he had more than fifty people working on Biohazard (which would later be known as Resident Evil outside of Japan).
Among those people were Hideki Kamiya and Hiroki Kato, who were the planners, designers and the core members of the team. In the graphics department, Jun Takeuchi looked after the character animation and Motoi Fujita and Ippei Masuda were largely responsible for the background rendering. Programming and system development was essentially down to Yasuhiro Anpo. Katsutoshi Karatsuma worked on gameplay features, Kiyohiko Sakata on in-game events and Ippo Yamada on sound.
Although the development team was growing in numbers, numerous problems occurred along the way. First of all, Resident Evil was never planned as a PlayStation exclusive as Capcom was indecisive with the platform selection. It was either the PlayStation or Sega Saturn. In the end, the company chose Sony's upcoming hardware (a Sega Saturn version eventually arrived in July of 1997, about 16 months after the PlayStation version). The second issue was that Capcom had little faith with Resident Evil and wanted to cancel the project. Furious, Mikami and his boss Fujiwara defended the game and convinced Capcom to proceed with the development. The third problem was that the team consisted of inexperienced newcomers that had to go through a lot of trial-and-error process. Even Mikami found it difficult since he was making his directorial debut.
"I remember how, because developing Biohazard was too difficult for them, one by one staff would resign from the job. I think everyone felt as though they didn't know what was what. It was a feverish atmosphere in the development team. Along the way, it got to the point where our development tools weren't sufficient for what we wanted to do, so to compensate we worked double shifts to ensure that the team was working around the clock."
For those who had remained onboard managed to stay positive and continued to work hard on Resident Evil even though Capcom showed little faith on the project. Once the game was finished, Mikami felt relieved but at the same time worried that the game would be a flop and would cause Capcom to go bankrupt. In the end, Biohazard sold really well and it became a household name throughout the western world.
"Biohazard sold more than twice the number of copies we were anticipating it might sell. To be honest, I was surprised by how successful it was. It was just a happy accident that the PlayStation market and the salability of Biohazard matched so perfectly. I think we were very lucky."
It was the first game to be dubbed a survival horror, a term Capcom coined to promote the game. Resident Evil was considered the defining title for survival horror games and was responsible for popularizing the genre. Its control scheme becoming a staple of the genre, and future titles would imitate its challenge of rationing highly limited resources and items. Many games have tried to replicate the successful formula seen in Resident Evil, and every subsequent survival horror game has arguably taken a stance in relation to it.
The game's commercial success is credited with helping the PlayStation become the dominant game console, and also led to a series of Resident Evil films. Shinji Mikami had creative control over the screen play and script of the first movie being dubbed a creative consultant. They had Mikami in this position to make sure fans of the games would be happy. He then dropped out of the later movies because he believed that the movies were heading in the right direction.
Rise and Fall
After the success of Resident Evil, Mikami was promoted from planner to producer. As a producer, he oversaw the development of the Resident Evil sequels (Resident Evil 2, 3, Code: Veronica) and also directed Dino Crisis in 1999. It was him who made a bold decision to restart the development of Resident Evil 2 in 1997. The game was around 75-80% done at the time but the more the game was in near completion, the more Mikami felt that the game looked too similar with Resident Evil 1 and it needed something greater to help surpass it. This rejected game would later be known as Resident Evil 1.5. Shortly after the release of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, Capcom Production Studio 4 was established, and Mikami was appointed as the General Manager of the studio.
In 2001, Mikami formed an exclusive agreement with Nintendo in which the main Resident Evil games would be sold only for the Nintendo GameCube. The GameCube would receive, in addition to ports of previous PlayStation and Sega Dreamcast installments, three new games in the series; a remake of the original Resident Evil, Resident Evil Zero and Resident Evil 4. In spite of Resident Evil Zero's underwhelming sales, Mikami remained confident in his support for Nintendo and announced four exclusive titles for the GameCube under development by Production Studio 4 in addition to Resident Evil 4; P.N.03, Viewtiful Joe, Killer7 and Dead Phoenix. This lineup became known as the Capcom 5.
The first of these games to be released was P.N. 03, which was a stylish sci-fi game about a sexy protagonist in a distant future. Unfortunately, due to time constraints from Capcom, the gunplay aspect was not implemented properly and the game became a commercial and critical failure, receiving lukewarm reviews from the press and selling below expectations. As a result, Mikami stepped down as manager of Production Studio 4, while remaining as one of the head producers within the team. After his failure with P.N.03, Mikami decided to concentrate instead on the creative aspects of the Capcom 5. He eventually took over directorial duties for Resident Evil 4 from previous director, Hiroshi Shibata. Under his direction, Resident Evil 4 went through some substantial changes. Resident Evil 4 was released in 2005 and was one of the GameCube's top-selling titles, selling 1,250,000 units worldwide within a year. The game was critically praised, winning many game of the year awards.
Resident Evil 4 is regarded as one of the most influential games of the 2000's, due to its influence in redefining at least two video game genres: the survival horror and the third-person shooter. Resident Evil 4 attempted to redefine the survival horror genre by emphasizing reflexes and precision aiming, thus broadening the gameplay of the series with elements from the wider action game genre. It helped redefine the third-person shooter genre by introducing a "reliance on offset camera angles that fail to obscure the action." The "over the shoulder" viewpoint introduced in Resident Evil 4 has now become standard in third-person shooters, including titles ranging from Gears of War to Batman: Arkham. It has also become a standard “precision aim” feature for action games in general, with examples ranging from Dead Space and Grand Theft Auto to the Ratchet & Clank Future series.
After the success of Resident Evil 4, Mikami left Capcom and formed a new company called Clover Studio in 2004. It employed an all-star lineup of Capcom development talent, including Atsushi Inaba (producer of Steel Battalion and Viewtiful Joe), and Hideki Kamiya (Devil May Cry director).
At Clover, Mikami supervised the development of God Hand, a game in the beat 'em up genre that parodies American and Japanese pop culture. It was released in Japan on 14 September 2006, and on 10 October 2006 in North America. Even though the game had a cult following, God Hand received mixed to positive reviews and sold poorly.
These days Mikami is not with Capcom anymore despite the fact he continues to have loose ties with them. After the dissolution of Clover Studio in 2006, Mikami formed another new company called Seeds, Inc. which would later come to be known as Platinum Games. In 2010, Mikami unveiled Vanquish, a sci-fi action game which was confirmed to be a spiritual successor to P.N.03 and a much more mainstream game than God Hand.
Mikami also revealed that he had formed a private development studio known as Straight Story. They developed the critical success No More Heroes for the Nintendo Wii.
At Platinum Games, he directed the third-person shooter Vanquish (2010), published by Sega and also designed by his protege Hiroki Kato. It improved upon the cover system, where in contrast to previous cover-based shooters, the cover in Vanquish is easily destructible. The game also penalizes the player's ranking for the number of times they have taken cover, though its most important innovation is the power-slide mechanic that allows the player to slide into and out of cover at high speeds, or in bullet time. The game was given GameSpot's "Best Original Game Mechanic" award for its rocket-sliding game mechanic, which acts as both a defensive escape and an offensive setup, opening up new gameplay possibilities for shooters and increasing the pace significantly. The game appears to have first-person shooters such as Bulletstorm, Crysis 2, Killzone 3, and Titanfall, and third-person shooters such as Gunslinger Stratos and Sega's own Binary Domain. Vanquish was itself inspired by Tatsunoko's 1970s anime series, Casshern.
Mikami then went on to work on Shadows of the Damned with Goichi Suda and Akira Yamaoka.
On October 28, 2010, US-based publisher ZeniMax Media announced its purchase of Mikami's Tokyo-based developer Tango Gameworks. Mikami will develop titles for ZeniMax subsidiary Bethesda Softworks. According to an interview with 1UP, Mikami said that Shadow of the Damned and a yet-to-be-announced title will be his last games. The reason, he said, is to give younger developers a chance while he handles the management at Tango.
On April 19th, 2013, Mikami's new project with Bethesda and Tango Gameworks was revealed, a survival horror game entitled The Evil Within, which aims to revive the traditional survival horror genre.
- Shinji Mikami had no say when Capcom America changed the name from Biohazard to Resident Evil outside of Japan and said that the Western name is "stupid."
- Mikami touted Resident Evil 4 as a GameCube exclusive and said that if it came out on another platform, he would "commit harakiri." The game did become multiplatform, which Mikami later apologized. This event was parodied in God Hand, which featured a Chihuahua named "Mikami's Head," a reference to him claiming to cut his head off.
- During the development of Resident Evil 5, Mikami stated that it's not the game he would have made. He posited that he probably would not play the game, upon release, as it would cause him stress and anger if he were to see the faults in Resident Evil 5. The opinion, however, regarded only his attitude as a previous RE developer, and was not meant to express how gamers should feel. Capcom did send him a copy of the game; he didn't open it for a long time.
- His favorite hobby is collecting watches. Mikami said he collects all kinds of watches - from expensive to "junk" watches, and he used to wear different watch every day. He mostly favors mechanical watches.